Persian cuisine is my absolute favorite! I was introduced to it a couple years ago by Persian friends of mine. This was the first dish she ever shared with me, and it's still my favorite. This is not the traditional recipe, I've made this traditional Iranian dish with my own spin, adding more vegetables and nutrients to this already nutritious dish. It's so easy to make, and like Italian food, Persian cuisine is so much better the next day after the flavors have melded together. I try to make this dish once a week.
This is a very fresh dish, full of herbs and vegetables that are almost always in season. It's green enough for Springtime, and warm and wholesome enough for a chilly Autumn night. If you're new to cooking Persian, you'll want to add a couple inexpensive staples to your spice cabinet, including Persian Dried Limes, Turmeric, and Advieh. Advieh is a Persian spice blend, and it varies from region to region in Iran. Ultimately it'll almost always have ground rose, cinnamon, and cardamon. Essentially any Advieh you purchase from your local Persian market or Amazon would be fine. This particular blend was given to me when my friend visited Iran. If you don't have Persian dried limes, or don't want to purchase them, adding fresh lime juice at the end will work perfectly. I used fresh lime juice for the first year I made this recipe. Persian dried limes are laid to dry in the sun for up to six weeks. They have a fermented citrus smell, and taste amazing in Persian cuisine, adding a uniquely fresh taste.
You can tell from the picture above that this stew is packed full of vegetables. I'm a huge Alium fan (Onion family) and my rendition of this recipe adds in green onion, leek, garlic, and white onion. If you're not a fan of onion, you may not like it. Also, as the name suggests, this is a celery stew, so celery is the shining star of this show. If you don't like the taste of cooked celery, then you definitely won't like this dish.
You'll want to do some prep work on all of your ingredients since this version is vegetarian (traditionally with lamb it would stew for three hours), the beginning will go quick and then everything will simmer together for about an hour.
My version of this stew calls for 5-6 celery stalks. You want to be picky when selecting your celery stalks and choose the dark, vibrant green stalks (most often on the outside of the head). You'll want to use the celery leaves and sometimes the leaves aren't pretty, or are yellow further into the head of celery. Select the vibrant, green leaves. Use all of the leaves, or whatever you can salvage from the head of celery.
Next, wash the celery thoroughly to remove any dirt. Chop them in half inch pieces and put them into a large bowl. You're bowl should be large enough to hold all of your ingredients at the end.
Next, take your bunch of Parsley and chop off majority of the stems. You don't want the stems because they are tough and add a strange contrast in the texture of the stew. Divide your bunch of Parsley into two, and work in two batches. Finally chop your Parsley, making sure what little stems are left, are finally chopped. I love this part because the smell of the Parsley starts filling your kitchen.
Add the Parsley to your bowl with the celery. Next, chop the dark green leaves off your leek. We're only going to use the bottom half. Chop off the roots and slice the leek length wise. Rinse under cold water, separating the leek layers to remove any dirt (and sometimes small stones) that hide in these layers. Chop the leek into half moon shapes, about 1/4 inch thick. Add the leek to your bowl of celery.
Next, chop about 4-5 green onions in small pieces. Add this to your bowl of vegetables.
Stir your vegetables and set aside. The herbs will marinade in each others flavors.
Next chop your white onion into small pieces. Slice two cloves of garlic like you would slice almonds. Keep your onion and garlic separate from your other vegetables. You'll cook the onions and garlic next.
In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. When you notice the oil shimmering, add the garlic and chopped onion with a dash of salt. You'll want to stir frequently until the onions become soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
After the onions have become soft, you'll want to add the turmeric that will immediately fill your kitchen with the wholesome smell that is Persian cooking.
Smell that smell?? That's the smell of amazing. After the spices cook and become fragrant, stir in you vegetable mix (Celery, Parsley, etc.). Cook for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables become bright green. At this time, you should have a kettle of water on the burner heating up. Pour two cups of hot water into the pot. It's best to add nearly boiling water instead of cold. Let this mixture simmer for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. Be careful not to let too much water evaporate. If it becomes too thick, add a little bit of more water a splash at a time.
As I mentioned earlier, traditionally this dish is served with lamb that has simmered for several hours. Making this dish vegetarian, I wanted to add some protein. I love red kidney beans. It's best to use dried beans that you soaked for several hours, but canned works well too (and it's convenient). Just make sure you rinse the beans really well under cold water. Toss the beans around and wash off the liquid they were canned with. You can tell they're washed thoroughly when they quit foaming.
After the stew simmers for 15-20 minutes add the red kidney beans. Fold the beans into the stew, carefully making sure you're not smashing the beans.
When the beans are added and the stew is simmering, covered, take two Persian dried limes and put them in a glass and cover with boiling water from your kettle. You want the dried limes to become re-hydrated and soften slightly, this usually takes about 15 minutes. You don't want to wait too long or they'll leak out their flavor into the water that's re-hydrating them.
Tip: The dried limes will float to the top, so you may want to weigh them down with another glass on top.
After the limes have been re-hydrating for 15 minutes, using a fork, poke a couple holes into the limes and add them into the stew and simmer another 10-15 minutes, paying attention to the amount of water in the stew. Some people prefer their stew to be more watery, others (like myself) prefer it to be a bit more heartier. Add more boiling water if you need.
If you're not using dried limes, add the juice of 1 lime at this point.
All done! Serve this stew as is, in a bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil on top, or cook some Basmati rice and serve over rice (my favorite way).
Persian Celery Stew - Khoreshte Karafs (Vegetarian)
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 White Onion, Large - Chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic - Sliced
5-6 Celery Stalks - Sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 Bunch of Parsley - Finely Chopped
1 Leek, green leaves removed. Cut into 1/4" pieces
4 Green Onions, Chopped
1 Cup or 1 Can of Red Kidney Beans - Drained, Rinsed.
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon of Advieh
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Mint Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Persian Dried Limes, Soaked (or Juice of 1 Lime)
1 Teaspoon Salt
2-3 Cups of boiling water.
Prep: Put a pot of water on to heat up, nearly boiling.
1. Heat the oil of medium-high heat. When it's shimmering, add the onion and garlic and salt. Cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric and paprika, and cook until spices become fragrant, about a minute or so.
2. Add the chopped celery, parsley, leek, and green onions and saute for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables turn bright green, then add 2 cups of the boiling water. Add your Advieh. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
3. Re-hydrate your dried limes in a glass with boiling water. Allow them to soak about 15 minutes.
4. After the stew has simmered for 20 minutes or so, add the beans and fold them in gently. Monitor the water. If the stew is reduced too much, add a little more boiling water. Continue to simmer another 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove your limes from the soaking liquid and discard the water they were re-hydrating in. Poke a couple holes in the limes using a fork. Add these to the stew and simmer another 10 minutes. If using fresh lime juice, add it at this time.
Serve the stew as is, or over Basmati rice. The stew makes for great leftovers, and in my opinion tastes even better the next day! Enjoy!!
Jazz it up: You can adjust the salt and pepper to your liking, and you can add red pepper flakes while it's simmering. Experiment with adding fresh mint, and cilantro.
Let me know what you think, and how you changed this recipe to work for you.